Corporate Manslaughter two years on
It came in with a blaze of glory … prosecution ofcompanies and other organisations was going to a whole lot easier.It is now approaching two years since the law of CorporateManslaughter was supposedly revolutionised by the introduction ofthe Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. Sowhere are we now? The reality has not quite matched the hype. Therehas only been one successful prosecution and even that was taintedby the ill health of the company's Managing Director. In any eventit was fairly easy to spot that the particular company was arelatively easy organisation to pursue.
The Act permits prosecutions for deaths caused by a grossbreach of relevant duty of care being owed by the organisation tothe deceased person. A substantial element of that breach must bethe way in which the activities of the organisation were managed ororganised by senior management. The writer personally has beeninvolved in three cases which have not come to fruition asprosecutions under the Act but rather ultimately Health and Safetylaw has been fallen back on by prosecutingauthorities.
Admittedly the penalty in the recent case, a fine of£385,000, was steep for the size of the organisation and relativeto its finances. Sentencing guidance for courts suggests finesshould be around £500000 as a starting point.
But two years on there is no real guidance as to how theseprosecutions will work out. The difficulty even with the mostrecent case is that it was a jury verdict of guilty. All reports ofthat case suggest that it was factually straight forward, thehealth and safety guidance relating relied upon being longstanding.Will there be a similar article in another two years … only timewill tell. Nonetheless all organisations need to ensure theirhealth and safety practices and procedures are on a firm footingand reflect day to day reality of working there.
This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.